Three dead, scores injured in Bangladeshi hartal violence

DHAKA, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) — At least three politicians were dead and scores including cops injured in stray incidents of violence in the early hours of Bangladesh’s opposition enforced countrywide 60-hour non-stop strike which began on Sunday morning, sources said.

They said a leader of ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was killed in central Faridpur district, some 101 km away of capital Dhaka, where dozens of shots were fired by the law enforcers.

In southwestern Pabna district, some 216 km west of Dhaka, sources said an activist of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party which is the key ally of BNP’s 18-party on alliance, was shot dead as ruling party men allegedly opened fire on opposition men.

The third death was reported from Jessore, some 164 km southwest of capital Dhaka, where opposition men allegedly beat dead a local leader of ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) party during the early hours of hartal.

But no police official was available for comment on the killings.

On account of the hartal, huge clashes between pro- hartal pickets and police backed by ruling Bangladesh AL party men have also been reported in parts of capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets against opposition men.

Sources say dozens of vehicles were smashed or set on fire during the hours of hartal in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.

Scores of cocktails and handmade bombs were exploded but no casualties have been reported.

The traffic on Dhaka streets remained relatively thin as most private vehicles were kept indoors.

Local television footage showed security forces dispersed protesters as they tried to hold marches along major roads in Dhaka and many other parts of the country.

Additional law enforcers have been deployed in capital Dhaka to avoid any untoward incident during the hartal.

Khaleda on Friday called a three-day nationwide dawn-to-dusk non-stop shutdown from 6 a.m. local time on Oct. 27 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 29 to press home its demand for restoration of non-party caretaker government to oversee next national elections slated for early 2014.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called BNP chief for dialogue and withdrawal of the three-day hartal. The two leading leaders of South Asian country’s politics held phone talks on Saturday, the first direct conversation between the two leaders of the South Asian country’s politics since January, 2009 when Hasina cabinet took oath of office.

Hasina invited Khaleda Zia, also two-time former prime minister, to Gono Bhaban, her official residence, Monday evening to discuss about the polls-time government.

BNP chief accepted Hasina’s invitation for holding dialogue but deferred the premier’s proposed date.

BNP had earlier rejected Hasina’s all-party interim government proposal and tabled a new formula for the administration. Six protesters were claimed to be dead while 500 others were injured when Bangladesh’s anti-government protesters and their ruling party rivals fought pitched battles for hours across the South Asian country on Friday.

Since June 2011 when Bangladesh parliament abolished the non- party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year-old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP- led alliance has been waging mass protests demanding for the reinstatement of the provision. The scrapped provision mandated an elected government to transfer power to an unelected non-partisan caretaker administration to oversee a new parliamentary election on the completion of its term.

Khaleda has asked Hasina’s AL to bring back the caretaker system, or else it won’t participate in the next polls because it fears an election without the caretaker government will not be free and fair.

The parliament is due to expire on Jan. 24 next year and elections reportedly should be held within 90 days before its expiry.